AMA Chapter 2306                                                                            IMAA Chapter 693

Navigation T-33 Project

  Team Members:
Ed Fennell
Rod Synder
Derwin Cartmel
David Campbell
Richard Elliott
Skip & Steve Weller
Ben Dewitt


Team leader, Ed Fennell started the restoration process with a simple question asked of the Johnson City Police Chief, Ron Street namely “What ever happened to the airplane that used to be at the Kiwanis Park?” “Oh it's behind the National Guard Armory”, the chief answered.

Around Christmas 1997, Ed saw Colonel Harry Gibson of the Tennessee Army National Guard and talk got around to the T-33. Gibson explained that the Air Force had sent orders to destroy the aircraft.

Ed then asked his fellow members of the Johnson City Radio Controllers if they were interested in restoring the T-33 and if they would commit to what was obviously going to be a long-range task. After they showed interest, Ed then discussed the intended project with Johnson City Manager John Campbell, as the city was the official caretaker of the aircraft. Campbell said, “If you guys are willing to clean it up I am willing to support it.” A formal request was placed to the Air Force who gave the group two years to restore the T-33.


A few of the group took a trip to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Museum in Dayton, Ohio to take photographs of similar T-33 aircraft. Knowing the tail number of the T-33, Ed was able to contact Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to get the history of the aircraft.

Ed and his wife, Nancy took a vacation trip to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base which is the junkyard of military aircraft. They returned with an undamaged T-33 canopy and wing tanks.

It took a lot of water and 4000 pounds of sand to strip away the coats of thick camouflage paint that the National Guard had added. The T-33 was stripped to its aluminum surface. Rod Snyder, the owner of Snyder Signs and one of the key members of the project, was able to match closely the original paint. A chemical was added to the epoxy-based paint that made it adhere to the aluminum. By paying close attention to detail, the T-33 was restored with its original color and details.

The T-33 is now on display at Bowser Ridge Model Airplane Field. It definitely catches your eye as you approach the field.

“I'm proud of it” says Ed Fennell. “It looks the way the airplane should look. It's a great landmark for our model airport, and now it's protected and insured since its part of Johnson City property.


1948 – Lockheed designs the T-33 trainer airplane to help pilots learn to fly the T-80 “Shooting Star” combat aircraft.

1953 – This particular aircraft (52-6009) is built.

1955 – Commissioned to the Air Force, the plane is stationed in the Training Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

1955-1964 – The aircraft flew missions in Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma.

1964 – The T-33 was transferred to NASA, painted white and given NASA logos. It transported astronauts between Cape Canaveral, Florida and Houston, Texas (among the notables to fly the aircraft was Apollo I astronaut Gus Grissom)

1965 – The City of Johnson City requested a flyable airplane from the Air Force through the efforts of a group headed by businessman, Mitchell Thorp.

1966- The aircraft was delivered to the Tri-Cities Airport in April. Bobby Jobe led a group to disassemble the aircraft. Thereafter the aircraft was mounted in Kiwanis Park and dedicated. The airplane's logbook accompanied the T-33 but was later destroyed in a fire at the Parks and Recreation Building.

1986 – Due to vandalism the aircraft is moved to the Boys Club location on West Market Street. It was moved to different places on the property and gradually deteriorated.

1995 – T-33 is moved across the street behind the National Guard Armory adjacent to the motor pool area.

1997 – A group of five JCRC club members begin the restoration project.

1998 – Mounting posts for the plane at Bowser Ridge were finished in February. The aircraft is mounted in May. In August Ed Fennell goes to Tucson and picks up a new canopy and wing tanks.

1999 – The airplane is sandblasted down to bare metal and re-riveting of the airframe begins.

2000 – The metal work and painting is completed. Re-stenciling begins in April and landscaping is completed on June 2nd. The T-33 is re-dedicated at the Bowser Ridge Model Airport on June 3rd.

For Questions/Comments Please Contact the

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional